Sun on Sunday up, The Times down as rival Guardian waits for ‘Three Little Pigs’ sales boost

Rupert Murdoch’s new Sunday version of the Sun is selling about 2.7m copies after three weeks, down from week one’s 3.2m but slightly up on week two. Selling at 50p against Trinity’s Mirror’s £1 Sunday Mirror and People obviously helps of course (both the latter have stabilised after dropping 30 per cent or so with the Sun launch).

That’s pretty goods news for Rupert as it replaces the sales lost with the closure of the News of the World. Cover revenue is halved but the Sunday Sun’s costs must be far lower (essentially the weekday staff and a rather lower ‘bungs’ budget).

News at his posh paper The Times isn’t quite so good, the paper’s sales have dropped below 400,000 for the first time since he launched his price war against the Daily Telegraph back in 1993. But News claimed in February that The Times (now mostly hidden behind a paywall online) had 119,255 digital subscribers plus nearly 60,000 daily iPad downloads, up 35 per cent since last September.

Elsewhere on the Street of Shame, the Guardian is flirting perilously with the 200,000 sales mark (it sold over 400,000 not that long ago) with just 216,000 copies sold in February. It will be interesting to see if Bartle Bogle Hegarty’s much-praised new campaign stops the rot.

The trouble with this is that the relaunch TV budget only seemed to run to a few digital channels, hemmed in between price comparison websites and Sir Michael Parkinson selling insurance to the over-50s. The Guardian and BBH appear to be operating a ‘Yeo Valley’ strategy, as we suggested they would last year, running the ad sparingly and relying on YouTube hits.

But Yeo Valley ads run once in the high-rating X Factor rather than a few times in shows with a few thousand viewers about deep sea fishing and US scrap dealers. So far ‘Three Little Pigs’ has scored 740,000 YouTube hits, good but not great.

Elsewhere the Independent’s cut-down 20p i is up to 264,000 copies, helped by about 20,000 bulk sales. The paper’s (relative) success must have hurt the Guardian, priced at an off-putting £1.20p. I, or should it be i?, is edited by former Campaign and thelondonpaper (there’s another one) editor Stefano Hatfield (pictured). Stef is still called executive editor though, in deference to Chris Blackhurst, official editor of both i and the Independent. Come on Chris, don’t stand on ceremony, give the boy his due title!

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.